Surviving The Elements!

I was going to call this post, “Top subtle condo annoyances that you would never even think of until you lived there,” but then the first three ended up being “elements,” and plus, that title is just far too long…

We can all complain about the “big issues” at our condos, and for first-time condo-owners, they might even be able to guess that, yes, the elevators often break down, or alas, the concierge likes to act as though he’s your father.

But if you’ve never lived in a condo before, you’ll have absolutely no clue about these items until you’re already in the unit, and complaining to people that don’t want to hear about it…


Do you have any idea how many images of the band came up when I Googled “Earth, Wind, Fire?”

Why didn’t I try “Elements” first?

I just wasted 25-minutes reading about the 1970’s R&B/soul/funk group, and now I’m listening to “September” on iTunes, and I can’t really focus on writing.

Wikipedia is dangerous like that.

Try looking up one simple item, and suddenly you get lost in a “Wiki-Hole,” whereby you just continue to click, and click, and click, until you realize you started out by searching for “U.S. Presidents,” and an hour later you’re reading about hydroponically-grown tomatoes…

I wrote a blog last year called, “Top Ten: Subtle Annoyances For First-Time Condo-Owners,” where I went through a laundry list of complaints that you’ll have shortly after you move into a condo for the first time.

May of the comments were from readers who agreed whole-heartedly, or who had other items to add to the list.

Today, we’re going to take that “subtle” list, and make it look obvious by comparison, as we delve into minor nuances that would make Jerry Seinfeld happy.

The “elements” theme was strictly coincidental, although we’re not talking Periodic Table here, and we’re also not talking exact Earth/Wind/Fire/Water..

1) Dust

You have absolutely, positively, no idea how much dust you will accumulate in a condo.

Every building is different, and some are worse than others.

But I can tell you, as I sit here at my dining room table (who ever thought I’d use that “home office” anyways?), with a full layer of dust covering the wood that I just wiped down this morning, the dust is never-ending here in my condo.

Is it just me?  Or is it other condos, and other buildings as well?

You can’t escape it, even for a day.

I’ll wipe it down in the morning, and by the evening, it’s back.  Like that cat…….from the childhood song……that came back…..although that was the next day, so completely different story…

I understand that I’m obsessive-compulsive, and perhaps I’m more predisposed to noticing and complaining about dust.  But if you left it for a week, you can literally write your name in it.

“WASH ME,” as the writing on the car would say.

I see a lot of really disgusting, messy properties, as I’ve noted on my blog before (I blamed tenants last time around, but it’s the whole ownership group), so maybe only part of the ownership-group likes to run a tidy shop.

But if you do know your way around a can of Pledge, you’ll be horrified at how quickly somebody else’s dead skin cells (most of dust is made up of that, fyi…) end up flying through the building’s air ducts, and are blown out onto your kitchen island.

2) Air

We real estate agents love to tell our buyer-clients, “great news, the maintenance fees are all-inclusive!”

But while your electricity may be included in your monthly charge, the resulting downside far, far outweighs the money you’re potentially saving.

I’m no engineer, so let me explain this as simply as I can.

In buildings with one central heating/cooling system, the condominium units do not have their own systems, and thus they can not be monitored, and can not be metered, and charged.

Great.  So you save $40 or $140 per month.

But where you don’t have your own system, you also can’t control it.

The building controls the system, and thus there is one person, playing God, at the helm who decides when to turn “heat” over to “cool.”

Think I’m making a big deal over nothing?  I assure you, I am not.

What if one day, your condo is too hot, and you want to cool it.

What if one day, your condo is too cold, and you want to heat it.

I know, there are always more environmentally-friendly ways of doing this.  If your condo is too hot, open the door and the window and let some cold air in.

But what if the air outside isn’t cool?

What if it’s May – a different May, from this year, where we actually have a warm temperature, and your condo is sweltering inside, and the air outside is the same temperature.

What if you want to cool off?

Well, if you live in a building where the temperature is centrally-controlled, you’re out of luck.

I wrote about this many years ago, with respect to my old building, and I posted this photo, dated May 27th, 2008:


That is a photo I took of my thermostat when it reached EIGHTY degrees in my unit.


I’m not crying poor here; I think I have a legitamite beef at EIGHTY degrees.

That was one year, late in May, when the building hadn’t yet turned from “heat” to “cool,” and I was stewing in my own juices down in Unit 223.

It was disgusting, and I was probably the only person to ever walk into Home Depot and by three of the same Sunbeam-brand $20 fans.

Of course, you can’t really reason with your property manager.  She’ll tell you that “it’s not quite time” or that “other residents aren’t as cold-blooded as you are.”  Wait, maybe that last one was about something else…

Trust me – paying the monthly hydro bill is worth being able to control your own thermostat and as a result, control your own comfort level.

3) Wind


Don’t tell anybody this.

Because this year, or next year, or the year after, I’m going to need to sell my condo.

And when I market this glorious, one-of-a-kind, 1,200 square foot terrace overlooking St. James Park, with a CN Tower view, I don’t want people to know how goddam windy it can get out there!

Folks, let me tell you something you might already know: I’m not a genius.

When I first bought this place in 2011, I went out and purchased a state-of-the-art ping-pong table – one that folded up nicely, with a super-duper cover, so I could wheel it out when I wanted to play.

I’ll never forget that first round of ping-pong with my office friend, as that weightless little ball was picked up by giant gusts of wind like that famous plastic bag from American Beauty.

Who knew a ping-pong ball weighed so little?

Ask me how many times I’ve played ping-pong out there in five years.  Actually, don’t…

A client of mine at a neigbouring building was showing me his balcony one day, and I noticed there were some wooden deck-tiles missing.  I asked him if they were rotten, or broken, or what.  He told me that even though he lived twenty-something stories up, with a balcony above his, and a 4-foot glass railing on the other side of the balcony, the wind would often pick up those wooden tiles, and toss them onto the street down below.

It would shock you to see how windy some outdoor spaces in Toronto can get.

Don’t get me wrong – my terrace in June, July, and August is absolutely gorgeous!  But even in those months, from time-to-time, you get one really windy night, where your seat-cushions get blown over the railing, and onto Jarvis Street.  And then you see a homeless guy the next dad laying on one of the cushions outside “Magic Muffin.”  Then, do you ask to buy the cushion back, or try to re-source it?

First-world problems…

4) Heat

Didn’t we just cover this with air?

No, not quite.

Here, we’re not talking about the hot-versus-cold, but rather the distribution of the heat itself.

My bedroom is two degrees warmer than the living room in the summer, and two degrees colder than the living room in the winter.

And you know what?

There’s absolutely zero I can do about it.

There are ducts where there are ducts, and you can never change that.

I can see one….two…..three…..four ducts from here, and there are two in the living room alone.

There is one in the bedroom, and thus the distribution isn’t the same.

But there’s more!

The thermostat only measures the heat from the living room!  So if I set it to 72-degrees, it will shut off once the living room is 72-degrees, but that says nothing about the bedroom.

There are two thermostats in the condo, and for some reason, they are fifteen feet apart: one in the living room, and one in the dining room.  There is no thermostat in either bedroom, or the den, or the halls.

The distribution of heat is a mess, and there’s nothing that can be done about it.

5) Sun

You’re thinking, “Really? Who can complain about the sun?”

Well, Icarus, for one…

Everybody wants sunlight when they’re condo-shopping.  Every buyer wants to know where the sun is.

“Which way to we face?”

“Do we get morning sun or afternoon sun?”

“How much natural light do we get?”

That’s all well and good, until you move into a condo with no window coverings, and then you curse the sun!

You just want to watch TV in peace, but you can’t see anything on the goddam screen!

And even if you do have window coverings, the windows are so dirty that the sun simply amplifies the dirt and scum that’s on the glass, and on a really bright, sunny, afternoon day, that dirt on the windows is beamed into your living room and forms a pattern on your coffee table.

And just to take this blog full circle, if you do live in a condo with a dust problem, do you have any idea just how awful that dusty dining room table, kitchen island, coffee table, or hardwood floor looks when you have a couple-hundred thousand rays of sunshine magnifying it?


If you challenged me to write 1,800 words about dust and wind, I probably wouldn’t have accepted the challenge.

You may laugh if you so choose, but I know some of you experience these “issues” on a daily basis.

If you’re obsessive-compulsive like me, don’t move to a condo – just get right into the sterile hospital ward, and live out your final days in a dust-free, dark, windless environment.

Wait….we didn’t even get to water.

Problems with hot and cold, anyone?


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  1. jay says:

    You may not still be on these issues, but I am: dust in this condo is amazing – way too much of it.
    Condo building has central heat & There is an air exchanger in the condo which adjusts the heat/cold inside my unit quite nicely. It is rarely on in the winter, but used a lot in summer for cooling.
    I wonder what would happen if i blocked off the air coming in around the main entrance door? I assume there would be less dust, but also less “new” air, and less heat (or cooling in the summer). I may have to play with this to get some sort of balance.
    I did solve the dry air in winter issue though with a large capacity humidifier (Aircare, from Home Depot, 6 gallon capacity, so only have to fill it once every three days or so). Air was VERY dry in winter – 25% humidity at times, and this isn’t a good environment for guitars. Smaller capacity humidifiers didn’t work as well, and had to be filled 2x/day.

  2. ron says:

    my master washroom’s wall abuts the outside wall of the condo. in winter it’s very chilly as I neglected to install heated floors. in addition to that , my glass shower door that closes perfectly well in the summer , is a problem in the winter. the door hits the glass wall in the winter.
    Assuming the building shifts in the winter months.

  3. Pauline says:

    I have I admit, I was so relieved to hear that dust in condos is a real and consistent issue – I really wondered what o was doing “wrong”.

  4. Sabrina says:

    AND about those dirty, dusty windows: you’re not always in a position to get them clean. If you’re lucky, you can wash your own or hire someone to do it. But if you’re not, it’s up to the company that the condo hires. Sometimes they show up and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they do a good job and sometimes they don’t. And sometimes they quit mid-job and you get an email from management that says, “We’ll pick this up again next year.”

    As for the sun, choose a north-facing unit. It’s consistent light that won’t fade your upholstery or make you sweat. And it’s the favourite of artists.

  5. condodweller says:

    Temperature control can be a challenge but i find with some planning most situations can be taken care of. I know south facing small units can get hot as you can’t create a cross wind to circulate the air. Some larger units don’t have sufficient AC units for the size. My last place had a heat pump which was nice, however my current place switches between heat/ac and for the last few years I never had any issues with heat but I can create a nice cross wind which helps. My biggest challenge is evenly distributing heat during the winter. It’s a constant argument over the thermostat as there are hot spots and cool spots.

    I would say the biggest issue related to heat is humidity. Most condos have their AC units set way too dry which is very unhealthy resulting in bloody nose and dry/cracked lips and skin. If you use a humidifier then the problem is condensation on the windows which causes water damage as it pools on the sill.

    The other problem with a large terrace is the condo board/management won’t let you do anything on your nice terrace. It’s one of those truths about condo living; whatever you want to do, you need to get permission, and it will be denied.

  6. WEB says:

    I used to live in 77/99 Harbour SQ. In the dead of winter, when it was -30 outside, it was unbelievable how hot it was inside the unit at night, with my heat turned off. I had my heat turned off, and two small windows open and it was still too hot to sleep! It made me wonder how hot my neighbours units were! They must have been 100 degrees!

  7. m says:

    If the dust drives you crazy, consider getting a good quality air purifier. I bought 2 (one for each bedroom) due to respiratory issues. They are life changing. The house is less dusty, the air smells fresher, and I sleep much better at night. Changing the filters regularly is important, and HEPA filters aren’t cheap. But it makes a world of difference. The Allergy Buyers Club site has a lot of great information on available models.

    When I lived in a condo on Yonge St, I used to get black dust on everything. While I still live downtown, now that I’m no longer on a busy street, I don’t get that black dust. Seems consistent with the multiple studies that show increased asthma for those that live within 100 metres of a major road.

  8. Joel says:

    In a combination of the elements I found that when we lived in a condo nothing could be left out on the balcony. The wind would blow dust and soot from construction sites on our balcony. This left us with thick black sludge over everything. We even had to frequently wash the floor of the patio to be able to walk on it.

  9. Darren says:

    Celsius please. I have no idea what 80 is.

    1. Paully says:

      Maybe it was Celsius and that is why David kvetched so much about it?! He was about to spontaneously combust.

      1. Darren says:


  10. iwill says:

    Dave (or someone) – explain this to me again please. you had a thermostat in 230 King Street but you couldn’t control the heating or cooling? What is the thermostat for then? And in what year or era did individual units get individual heat pumps? I had no idea about this… good to know.

    1. Darren says:

      It controls the air conditioning in summer and heating in winter. Only one can work at one time, so autumn and spring can mean you don’t have heat or a.c.when you want it.

      1. Lore says:

        You really found a way to make this whole prosecs easier.

  11. A Grant says:

    #5. The last apartment I lived in before buying my first condo had a gorgeous view of the Ottawa River, overlooking the Museum of Civilization. And it was west facing. Great – sunsets! Yeah, not so much. Every day I would get home from work to find that the afternoon sun had turned my living room into a sauna. No amount of air conditioning could make it comfortable.

    Good lesson learned for when I was looking for a condo – north-east facing please.

    1. GERRY FIORITO says:

      My condo get too hot summer, winter fall when the sun shines, how do I DEAL WITH THIS HEAT?